Living the Gospel – March 27, 2022

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Most of us know the story of the prodigal son by heart. We’ve all heard it many times, and we all – or at least most of us – don’t see ourselves as that younger son who squandered his inheritance. But there is a second part of that story, one we often skip over. It is the story of the older son, the one who was steadfast and honest, who obeyed his father and served him loyally all his life. Except, he was jealous of the gifts their father lavished on the youngest. From the days of Cain and Abel, sibling rivalry has plagued humanity.

“It’s not fair!” one claims. “Why should he get all the attention when I, who was always here for our father, get nothing extra?”

“It’s not fair!” Why should he inherit everything when I’m better, smarter, stronger….”

“It’s not fair! Why should our father favor you over me?”

We see this attitude crop up repeatedly with the workers in the vineyard, the parable of the lost sheep, and still again with the murmuring of the Pharisees and Scribes. They resented that Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners, even so far as to eat with them – a sign of fellowship. It’s wrong, they insist. The bounties of God should belong only to those who had always faithfully followed the prescribed ways. Or perhaps, as in modern times, we claim the wealth of our communities should only belong to those who work here, or who are born here, or have the right skin color, or speak the preferred language.

But just as God comes out to meet us where we are – angry and resentful – the Lord assures us we are no less just because the younger brother has returned. We are no less just because our neighbor needs what we have and rightfully deserve. But by the same token, neither are we more than the other.

“My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.” Everything God offers is mine. And it is my free will that allows me to share without bitterness or a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. The Lord doesn’t want me to be resentful. He only wants good things for me. But if I hold myself back from the celebration, I am only hurting myself. It’s time to take my Father’s hand and rejoice as he rejoices.

Linda Crowley